A Family History

Reading a family history, while certainly not as great a task as writing one, is nonetheless overwhelming especially in this instance when there are so many favourable details to be said of it. Foremost the medium; viz., paper.  This particular history (for the record called, “Who we are: a family history” by Joan G. Fairweather) was printed and bound in Canada.  The binding though not hard cover is conveniently of spiral binding.

Documents bound with helical coil (usually called spiral coil) can open flat on a desk or table and offer 360 degree rotation for easy note taking. This binding style is durable and is often used for professionally bound documents that need to be mailed. The coil used for this style of binding are made of high quality PVC plastic and offer a secure high quality and professionally bound book while binding documents up to 2” thick. Spiral Binding Company, started in 1932, was “the first mechanical binding company in the United States”. It created the original metal spiral-coil binding and later the Spiralastic, a popular plastic coil to replace wire during World War II.

What I instantly found to be convenient about this binding was not its suitability for note taking or mailing; rather, simply turning the pages. I was able to sit in a comfortable chair (not at a desk) with the book on my lap, condensing the size to one page at a time. Naturally the further singularity of the paper text is that it is not electronic. Though there are many advantages of electronic text, this volume (being only 56 pages) is a manageable weight. And it merits attention too that there are only 56 pages which means it is digestible within one sitting without risk of losing all of one’s correspondence of information.

Next I am bound to acknowledge the agreeable size of the font (Harrington and Book Antiqua). My declining eyesight endears me instantly to a font which is large enough to see.

The story covers dates going back many centuries but predominates of necessity upon a reasonably proximate historic period which ensures its lingering societal and intellectual relevance. Summarily the history intrigued me to reference primarily Ireland, Scotland, England, South Africa and Australia.

The captivating aspect of the story is for me (a non-family member) not the genealogy but instead the pertinence to global history. I confess too an unabashed cosmetic attraction to the frequent references to sailing and the sea.  Matters maritime have forever constituted for me an enthralling subject.

As reluctant as I am to engage in a repetition of the family history I must nonetheless comment upon the congruity of the accounts with my current personal relationships which include people from (or having an immediate association with) South Africa, Australia and England.

Considering that the author is approaching her eighty-fifth year, that she has a precedence with organized religion and the bearing and breeding of a sophisticated woman, it pleased and amused me to observe the occasional interjections of robust commentary surrounding tobacco, alcohol and possible nefarious conduct. I say this not for vulgar animation but as congratulations for acknowledging the realities of life beneath the veneer which so often we mistakenly seek to advance.

Finally and most importantly the history is well written and improving.  Of the several autobiographies which I have read in my lifetime, this one distinguishes itself by one salient feature; namely, focussing predominantly upon everyone and everything other than the author. Having thus expiated her guilt, I look forward to the more self-absorbed sequel! In the meantime I am grateful to Her Ladyship for having shared this family intimacy with me. It will enjoy a cherished haven on my library shelf.